Islands where Kenyans don’t feel the pain of the high cost of living

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Overloaded boat which is the only form of transportation carries passengers without safety vests from the mainland of Usenge to Mageta Island [Collins Oduor, Standard]

A crowded passenger boat slows down as it approaches Mahanga Beach on Mageta Island, Siaya County.

A group of women eagerly await the goods the boat has brought.

A few minutes ago, the ship was sailing from Lolui Island in Uganda, just 400 meters from Mageta.

Inside the boat are all kinds of items, mostly food, smuggled from Uganda. Bananas, cooking oil, sugar, vegetables and cases of alcohol fill the boat.

The goods are quickly unloaded. The traders who paid for them in advance serve the more than 8,000 inhabitants of the island.

This illegal trade involving Kenyan and Ugandan traders in cahoots with rogue officials is a blessing to the islanders. It supplies products that are expensive in Kenya but inexpensive in Uganda.

It has been the way of life here in Mageta for years. It is reproduced in four other islands of Siaya.

According to residents of Mageta, Ugandan boats make about three trips a day to the coast. The situation made life on the islands of Mageta, Oyamo, Sifu and Sirigombe affordable.

Joyce Akello, a Ugandan who sells bananas, says she has been in the business for over four years.

In Mageta, a kilo of sugar goes for Sh90. A bottle of Ugandan beer that costs between Sh220 and Sh250 in some parts of Nyanza, costs around Sh100 and Sh160.

Officials with ties to businessmen allow large quantities of fish to be smuggled into Kenya while evading tax. In Busia, the price of fish is low but skyrockets when the fish reach Kisumu.

In the border town of Busia, Ugandan gasoline is available at around 120 shillings per liter.

Business is so lucrative that the cartels operating at the border have hired several motorcyclists who take illegal routes to transport items in waiting trucks parked in bushes.

This may perhaps explain why a part of the inhabitants asked the government to let the island be part of Uganda.

Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Motor vehicle tracking and surveillance is nothing new to Kenyans. The competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desks.


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